John XXII, Pope
JOHN XXII, POPE
Pontificate: Aug. 7, 1316, to Dec. 4, 1334; b. Jacques Duèse (or d'Euze) in Cahors, southern France, c. 1245;d. Avignon. Born into a rich bourgeois family, he studied canon and Roman law at Montpellier and Orléans. Bishop of Fréjus from 1300, he was appointed chancellor of Charles II and then Robert of Naples (1308–10) ; he was consecrated bishop of Avignon in 1310, cardinal-priest of S. Vitale in 1312, and cardinal bishop of Porto in 1313, his last stage before the See of St. Peter. At the age of 72, he was elected to the papacy after a two-year vacancy and not before he encouraged rumors about his precarious physical condition. Eventually, John ruled the Church for 18 consecutive years, during which he established the papal court at Avignon.
John XXII continued the reorganization of the Church along the centralizing lines fixed in the previous century and increased the papal treasury through strengthening apostolic control over church offices and benefices. He promulgated the Liber Septimus, the collection of decretals of his predecessor, Clement V, also known as clementinae; his own judicial decisions, the extravagantes communes, were the last addition to canon law until the 16th century. Although he was personally austere, energetic, and kindly, his strong family affections and local patriotism brought charges of nepotism. Indeed, of the 28 cardinals he nominated, 20 were from southern France, three of them his nephews.
In the political sphere, John continued the strong alliance with the western kings and submitted the papacy to the interests of Edward II and Edward III, both in the internal arena of England and in their protracted conflict with Scotland. In France, as well, he tried to strengthen the monarchy in the critical transition period between the Capetians and the Valois.
Less successful was John's long conflict with Emperor Louis IV, the Bavarian. Following a disputed election to the German crown (1314), the pope admonished the two contenders to settle their dispute amicably. Papal moderation, however, changed radically once Louis of Bavaria defeated Frederick of Austria (1322), for the victorious king appointed an imperial vicar in Italy and gave political support to the pope's enemy, Galeazzo visconti of Milan. Employing the precedent established by innocent iii, John declared that the imperial election lay with the papacy and ordered Louis to annul his former acts and to renounce the imperial dignity until a papal decision was issued. The German response came in the Declaration of Nuremberg, which formally denied the papal claims (Nov. 16, 1323). These were condemned once again in the Sachsenhausen Appellation (May 22, 1324), which declared John a heretic because of his declarations on evangelical poverty. At this stage the conflict between pope and emperor-elect lost its original, political essence and became a war between two well-defined ideological factions. To fortify his position, Louis gave asylum to marsilius of padua and john of jandun, the authors of the Defensor pacis, who championed the independent status of secular princes and declared the ecumenical council superior to the pope. John retaliated by excommunicating Louis, but the latter was crowned emperor in Rome by the senator Sciarra colonna (Jan. 17, 1328). Louis thereupon charged John with being an usurper and oppressor of the Church, deposed him, and brought about the election of the Franciscan Spiritual Peter of Corbara, as antipope nicholas v (May 12). These extremist measures, however, proved short lived. After Louis returned to Germany (1329), Peter submitted to the pope, who had excommunicated him and subsequently imprisoned him in Avignon. Louis tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a reconciliation with the papal curia. Still, the radical Franciscans (among them the English philosopher william ockham) together with Marsilius of Padua continued their vigorous antipapal campaign from the imperial court in Munich.
The critical role of the franciscans during the conflict between regnum et sacerdotium hints at their own clash with the papal curia during John's pontificate. Throughout the 13th century, the order had enjoyed papal protection, which brought about, inter alia, the nomination of a special coordinator between the order and the Holy See, as well as papal formal ownership of Franciscan wealth as a means of safeguarding the order's allegiance to evangelical poverty. Still, the many conflicts within the ranks of the order between the Spirituals, who favored strict adherence to St. Francis's rule of poverty, and the Conventuals, who held to a broader interpretation, led to continuous papal intervention. Shortly after his accession, John took action against the Spirituals and imprisoned their delegates at Avignon. In a series of decrees, the pope ordered them to resume obedience to their superiors (Quorundam exigit, Oct. 7, 1317). He condemned the most extreme champions of evangelical poverty, such as the fraticelli and beguines (Sancta Romana, Dec. 30, 1317), and the Tuscan Spirituals, who had taken refuge in Sicily (Gloriosam ecclesiam, Jan. 23, 1318). Twenty-five Spirituals were handed over to the inquisition, which put four of them to the stake. In order to undermine their ideological foundations, John condemned the Postilla super Apocalypsim, a treatise written by the undisputed leader of the Spirituals, peter john olivi. Up to this point, the pope had confronted the tenets and way of life of the most radical Franciscans. Two years later, however, he began a frontal attack against the order as a whole, condemning the Franciscan doctrine of evangelical poverty, (Ad conditorem canonum, Dec. 8, 1322) and made it heretical to assert that Christ and the Apostles had not owned goods (Cum inter nonnullos, Nov. 12, 1323) (see poverty controversy). The pope later deposed and excommunicated the minister-general, michael of cesena (Quia vir reprobus, Nov. 16, 1329), who, together with the proctor of the order, bonagratia of bergamo, and William Ockham, had fled from Avignon and joined forces with the emperor. John eventually succeeded in submitting the Franciscan Order to apostolic obedience. The Perpignan Chapter chose Gerald Odonis as minister-general in place of Cesena, thus facilitating a reconciliation with the papal curia (1331).
The protracted conflict with the Franciscans exposed John to criticism, but it did not challenge his status as Vicar of God on Earth and ultimate speaker of Catholic orthodoxy. The controversy over the beatific vision, however, threatened the theological foundations of the papacy, for criticism came no longer from members of a monastic order suspected of a biased approach, but from the masters of the faculty of theology in Paris. During the winter of 1331–32, John XXII preached four sermons on the beatific vision. Although not yet defined as dogma, traditional doctrine maintained that the souls of the saints, who were in paradise, enjoyed the full vision of God immediately after their deaths. The pope, however, claimed that since an individual is composed of body and soul, his final reward is deferred until their reunion at the resurrection on the Day of Judgment. The University of Paris condemned these theories in the autumn of 1333, and it was supported by most theologians whom the pope consulted. On his deathbed, John retreated to some degree, acknowledging that the souls of the blessed see God and the divine essence face to face as clearly as their condition permits. He stated that his former position was only a personal opinion. The pope's capitulation to the theological tenets of the university can be regarded as a reflection of the changing balance of power in Christendom on the eve of the Conciliar Movement.
John set up foreign missions and established bishoprics in Anatolia, Armenia, Iran, and India. A patron of learning, he founded the papal library at Avignon (see vat ican library) and the University of Cahors.
Bibliography: Lettres de Jean XXII, ed. a. fayen, 2 v. in 3 (Rome 1908–12) ; Lettres secrètes et curiales de Pape Jean XXII…, ed. a. l. coulon and s. clÉmencet (Paris 1906–) ; Lettres communes …, ed. g. mollat and g. de lesques, 16 v. in 15 (Bibl. des Écoles franç. ser. 3; Paris 1904–47). g. mollat, The Popes at Avignon, tr. j. love (New York 1963). j. e. weakland, "Administration and Fiscal Centralization under Pope John XXII, 1316–1334, " Catholic Historical Review 54 (1968) 39–54, 285–310; "Pope John XXII and the Beatific Vision Controversy, " Annuale Mediaevale 9 (1968) 76–84. m. d. lambert, "The Franciscan Crisis under John XXII, " Franciscan Studies 10 (1972) 123–143. k. e. spiers, "Pope John XXII and Marsilius of Padua on the Universal Dominion of Christ, " Medioevo 6 (1980) 471–478. s. menache, "The Failure of John XXII's Policy toward France and England, " Church History 55:4 (1986) 423–437. r. lambertini, "Usus and usura: Poverty and Usury in the Franciscans' Responses to John XXII's Quia vir reprobus, " Franciscan Studies 54 (1994) 185–210. s. kinsella, "The Poverty of Christ in the Medieval Debates between the Papacy and the Franciscans, " Laurentianum 36:3 (1995) 477–509. m. dykmans, "Nouveaux textes de Jean XXII sur la vision beatifique, " Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique 66:2 (1971) 401–417. c. trottman, "Vision béatifique et intuition d'un objet absent: des sources franciscaines du nominalisme aux defenseurs scotiste de l'opinion de Jean XXII sur la vision différée, " Studi Medievali ser. 3, 34:2 (1994) 653–715.